Abortion ban forces US students to rethink college plans

July 11 (Reuters) – With its excellent academic and musical programs, Oberlin College in Ohio looks a perfect fit for Nina Huang, a California high school student who plays the flute and piano and hopes to eventually study medicine or law.

But Huang, 16, said she crossed the college off her application list after Ohio imposed a near-total abortion ban last month. It now plans to create a wider network of schools in states with less restrictive laws.

“I don’t want to go to school in a state where abortion is prohibited,” she said.

Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com

The US Supreme Court’s June decision to set aside Roe v. Wade’s case in which abortion was legalized nationwide has made some students reconsider their higher education plans as states rush to ban or limit abortion, according to interviews with 20 students and college advisors across the country.

While some students have long been reluctant to enroll in schools in places with different political leanings than their own, recent moves by conservative states on issues such as abortion and LGBT rights have deepened the polarization in the country.

For some students, the restrictions raise fears that they will not be able to have an abortion if they need it or that they will face gender discrimination. Others said they were concerned about encountering racial prejudice or political ostracism.

“I’m just in high school now, and I still know who I am,” said Samira Murad, 17, who will be a final year student at Stuyvesant High School in New York. “I don’t want to move to a place where I can’t be myself because of the laws in place.”

It is too early to determine whether such concerns will affect admissions processes in a measurable way, and evidence from other recent state divisional laws suggests that there may be little overall effect.

But in the wake of Roe’s coup, college counselors said abortion featured prominently in many conversations with clients, with some going so far as to cancel their dream schools.

“Some of our students have explicitly stated that they will not apply to colleges and universities in states that would violate their reproductive rights,” said Daniel Santos, CEO of college consultancy Pribury in Florida.

‘A matter of concern’

Kristen Willmott, a counselor with the Department of First Class Admissions in Massachusetts, said students she works with have told her that they have taken some top schools in Texas, Florida and Tennessee off their application lists because of restrictive abortion laws.

Alexis Briscoe, who was entering her final year at Eastern Technical High School in Maryland, had planned to apply to her parents’ university, Washington University in St. Lewis, Missouri.

But she is concerned after the state enacted a law effectively banning abortion.

“Now my mom has warned me that I need to be very careful when applying to schools in states with startup laws,” Briscoe, 17, said, referring to the ban designed to take effect once the Supreme Court overturns Roe.

The University of Washington declined to comment but shared a June 24 statement in which university leaders acknowledged the concerns and frustrations some felt after the court ruling. Oberlin College did not respond to requests for comment.

Several students raised similar concerns about attending college in North Carolina after the state in 2016 passed a law restricting bathrooms that transgender people can use, said counselor Jason Weingarten of New York-based Ivy Coach.

But he said many still chose to attend Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

UNC admissions statistics show that the number of applicants increased by 14% between 2016 and 2017 despite the unease of individual students.

Abortion, Weingarten said, is “a topic that worries most students but is not something that will deter them from going to one of the most selective schools in the country.”

Shahrin Abedin, a spokeswoman for the University of Texas Medical School, said the school did not see a drop in applications that they could reasonably attribute to the state’s abortion ban after six weeks that took effect in September.

But for Maryland high school freshman Sabrina Thaler, the prospect of attending college in a state that bans abortion is troubling.

Thaler, 16, remembered the question she posed to her high school class during a debate in May after the decision that ultimately overturned the Roe v. Wade was leaked.

“What if I go to college in a state where abortion is prohibited and I get raped and then I don’t have the option to have an abortion?”

Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com

Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California, and Rose Horwich in Washington. Editing by Colin Jenkins and Aurora Ellis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment